Tag Archives: Larry Bird

THE MOST UNDERRATED BASKETBALL TEAM OF ALL TIME-DREAM TEAM 3

Jay C. Brandriet

8/29/16

The original “Dream Team” remains the greatest, most impactful group in basketball history. They are so iconic, they have cast a shadow over a team that could have hung with them on the floor. The 1996 version of Team USA was on the level of the 1992 squad. They are not given much credit for their sensational roster. Even “The Redeem Team” in 2008 gets more love because of their storyline. “Dream Team 3” is the most underrated basketball team of all time.

 

1992 VERSE 1996 THOUGHTS

I’ts close. I’d guess the 1992 squad would be a two or three point favorite each time. The reason would be Michael Jordan and Earvin Johnson, who was still Magic enough. It should be noted Larry Bird had a broken NBA body and was doing  Americans a favor by suiting up. Christian Laettner (a good pro) as a rookie would be the worst player on either squad.

 

1996 UNITED STATES MEN’S OLYMPIC BASKETBALL TEAM

 

CHARLES BARKLEY (Age 33)

KARL MALONE (Age 33)

JOHN STOCKTON (Age 34)

DAVID ROBINSON (Age 30)

SCOTTIE PIPPEN (Age 30)

SHAQUILLE O’NEAL (Age 24)

HAKEEM OLAJUWON (Age 33)

PENNY HARDAWAY (Age 24)

GRANT HILL (Age 23)

GARY PAYTON (Age 28)

REGGIE MILLER (Age 30)

MITCH RICHMOND (Age 31)

 

COACHES: Lenny Wilkens, Jerry Sloan, Bobby Cremins, Clem Haskins

 

MY POINT?   

                                                                                                                                        “Dream Team 3” had five players from the 92 group. Then add Shaq at his peak of running fast and jumping high. Next is merely Olajuwon who had just been the best player in the world for two years. Penny and Grant Hill were superstars, right in the middle of putting their versatile stamps on the NBA. Gary Payton was at the top of his game. Reggie Miller had already proven he was a clutch legend. Oh my goodness Mitch Richmond could ball. They won by 32 points a game on the way to gold. This team got lost between the “Dream Team” breaking ground and the “Redeem Team” having to overcome struggle. For how good the 96 team was, it’s like they hardly exist in fans memories.

untitled
Looking at this photo says it all.
Advertisements

THE 60 BEST PLAYERS I’VE SEEN IN THE NBA (2015)

images (17)

I’M ONLY RANKING THE PLAYERS I HAVE SEEN IN MY TIME OF OBSESSIVELY WATCHING NBA BASKETBALL (1987-2015). The years noted next to the players are the span of time they played, not necessarily the exact seasons. Guys that are active are still climbing an ever-changing list like this one. There are a handful of players I saw play, but count them for this list. I did not see them enough or at their best.

 

PLAYERS I WATCHED THAT I DID NOT COUNT FOR THIS LIST: Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Moses Malone, Adrian Dantley, Bernard King, Mark Aguirre, Alex English, Dennis Johnson, Robert Parish, Rolando Blackman, Fat Lever , Ricky Pierce, Xaiver Mcdaniel, Tom Chambers & Larry Nance.

HONORABLE MENTION: Gilbert Arenas, Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, Tim Hardaway, and Derrick Coleman.

THE 60 BEST PLAYERS I’VE SEEN AS OF JULY, 2015: 

#60- ANTHONY DAVIS (Active) I’m giving Davis an early ticket on this list. Like Shaquille O’Neal being voted a “top 50 player” too early, sometimes you can give credit for upside. Most NBA insiders think Davis is THE next guy. It’s obvious he’s going to be in the conversation.

#59- JAMES HARDEN (Active) For all that he has yet to do, it’s clear Harden’s impact level is here to stay. His step back jumper allows him to get shots off with little space. James is a master at drawing contact. I did not think he would ever end up second on an NBA MVP ballot.

#58- KEVIN JOHNSON (1987-2000) Many think of the images of the 6-foot-1 Johnson hammering it on Hakeem Olajuwon and Mark Eaton. The mayor could ball! In 105 playoff games KJ averaged 19.3 points and 8.9 assists per game.

Kobe Bryant is a huge fan of Westbrook who competes so fiercely each play.
Kobe Bryant is a huge fan of Westbrook because he competes so fiercely each play.

#57- DERRICK ROSE (Active) Derrick is the youngest player to ever be named NBA MVP (22). It may be difficult for Rose to get back to that level again. I’ve seen enough to know he’s one of the most explosive, determined guards to play the game.

#56- LARRY JOHNSON (1991-2001) If healthy, Larry Johnson would have been a Hall of Fame player. He had elegance in his power game. Johnson hit one of the biggest shots and free throws in New York Knicks history.

#55- RUSSELL WESTBROOK (Active) Russell charging at a defense makes me think of back peddling in a panic. Former player Antoine Carr described his reason for liking Westbrook, “He seems to play angry every night man.”

#54- CHRIS BOSH (Active) After his last season in Toronto, I thought Chris peaked as the 12th best player in the NBA. His contribution was a huge reason the Heat went to four straight Finals and brought home two rings. Bosh plays outstanding pick and roll defense.

#53- MANU GINOBILI (Active) The 57th overall pick of the 1999 draft has become an unforgettable gem. Manu is the perfect combination of showtime and grit.

#52- CHAUNCEY BILLUPS (1997-2014) Basketball people love Billups. He went from a hard-working journeyman to a five time NBA All-Star and a Finals MVP. With a name like “Mr. Big Shot” we can assume this guy did alright.

#51- BUCK WILLIAMS (1981-1998) Before I saw him play Buck had five 1000 plus rebound seasons. I remember when he competed in 58 playoff games with the Blazers over a few year stretch. He could bang with someone like Karl Malone and make it a fair fight in the toughness category.

#50- DIKEMBE MUTOMBO (1991-2009) Mutombo made his name with smothering defense and a cool finger waggle. He was an eight time All-Star and four-time Defensive Player of the Year.

#49- AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE (Active) Amar’e was an exotic talent. He was a better Blake Griffin. Stoudemire was at his best during the Western Conference Finals versus San Antonio in his second season. He dropped 37 a game in dominating fashion. I thought then he was the third best player on the planet.

Carmelo receives a lot of criticism. At the very least he is a scoring legend.
Carmelo receives a lot of criticism. At the very least he is a scoring legend.

#48- SHAWN KEMP (1989-2003) Kemp was the first player I ever thought of as a “man child”. Even raw and young, he would explode off of the television. Shawn helped the 1996 Seattle Supersonics to 64 wins and the NBA Finals. As an older player in Cleveland he started burying the outside shot from the elbow.

#47- RASHEED WALLACE (1995-2013) Rasheed had great extension on his shot and range that stretched deep. Wallace was unstoppable when he was aggressive. He is the most gifted, reluctant player of his time (Odom is number two).

#46- TONY PARKER (Active) The longer Tony keeps his dribble alive, he seems to get more dangerous. His 17 foot jumper and his floater are staples that have helped his teams win four World Championships.

#45- CARMELO ANTHONY (Active) The media loves to talk about the holes in Carmelo’s game. I gained my respect for Melo watching his Olympic play in 2008. When he’s on your side it’s easy to see his scoring prowess. His mid range game is butter, and he can be trusted in crunch time.

#44- VINCE CARTER (Active) Vince was an aesthetically pleasing player to watch. His aerial game left you waiting for his next new move. Carter became a weapon from the three-point line and has a 50 point playoff game to his credit. His transition to excellent role player in his later years is a the bow on his Hall of Fame caliber career.

#43- JOE DUMARS (1985-1999) Rolling with a group of “bad boys”, Joe was the face of class and integrity. He shot it well, passed with precision, and was cool late in games. Dumars deserves the label of “combo guard.” Michael Jordan admired the challenge Joe presented him.

#42- PAU GASOL (Active) His mix of length and skill are transcendent. Gasol was the lead guy in Memphis on a 50 win team. He was the difference maker for Kobe’s Lakers teams that played in three straight Finals series. As a Chicago Bull in the 2015 campaign, he had the most Double doubles in the NBA with 54.

#41-DWIGHT HOWARD (Active) Dwight has become so overrated, hes underrated. His body and athleticism have aided him in being a historic defender. Howard has been the league leader in blocks five times. For all of those that dump on him the last few years, don’t forget Dwight is a 19.5 point, 14.1 rebound, and 2.6 block guy in 84 playoff games.

#40- MITCH RICHMOND (1988-2002) Richmond’s great play was a little under the radar in Golden State and Sacramento. Mitch finished strong at the cup. He scored 21 points per game or more in 10 straight seasons and hit 85 percent of his career free throws.

T-Mac once scored 13 points in the final 35 seconds to beat the Spurs.
T-Mac once scored 13 points in the final 35 seconds to beat the Spurs.

#39- CHRIS MULLIN (1985-2001) Chris watched the 1988 All-Star game from rehab. A year later he was playing in the 1989 All-Star game in Houston. He went from 30 pounds over weight to being part of “Run TMC” and leading the league in minutes twice. Mullin had super vision.

#38- DENNIS RODMAN (1986-2000) Rodman made hustle sexy. His energy seemed tangible and it drove his teams and his home crowds. Dennis led the league in rebounding over seven consecutive years, pulling down an eye-popping 16.7 a night.

#37- RAY ALLEN (1996-2014) When Ray Allen was in town I would always show up early to watch his pre game shooting routine. It was more than spectacular. It was a front row seat to the reminder that being great does not happen on accident.

#36- CHRIS PAUL (Active) He wears how bad he wants to beat you on his sleeve. Chris has led the league in steals per game five times in his 10 seasons. Although CP3 has not advanced to a Conference Final, the shot he hit to beat the Spurs in game seven (2015) should validate him the same.

#35- PENNY HARDAWAY (1993-2008) Penny had it all in his game. He was a big guard who had hops, could post, and was a suburb show passer. On a desperate Orlando team in 1997, Hardaway scored 42 and 41 points in back to back playoff wins.

#34- REGGIE MILLER (1987-2005) His constant motion was as much his staple as his long distance shooting. He was so difficult to chase it consumed teams. Miller would embrace pressure. He was always willing to dare the moment, which made for great theater in the clutch.

#33- TRACY MCGRADY (1997-2012) In his Orlando days, Tracy was an athletic phenom. He was like “Kobe East.” As a Rocket he remained a scoring expert, while his ability to pass the ball cross court was on full display. McGrady was a two-time scoring champion.

#32- ALONZO MOURNING (1992-2008) After a December 2007 game in Salt Lake City, I asked Mourning “what is the number one thing you have learned about yourself over the last few years?” He took his time cutting his last toe nail, looked up and said, “that I’m a tough son of a bitch.”

#31- GRANT HILL (1994-2013) Grant burst onto the scene as the new age point forward. He was a smooth and dynamic ball player. Late in a career full of injuries, Hill developed a reputation as a good defensive player.

#30- JAMES WORTHY (1982-1994) He would wave the ball above his head, palming it like a grapefruit. If Worthy didn’t get you with his first step, he would feel the defenders and quickly spin to the rim. “Big Game James” went 15 for 22 from the field in game seven of the 1988 NBA Finals.

Karl Malone and Charles Barkley both said McHale was their most difficult matchup.
Karl Malone and Charles Barkley both said McHale was their most difficult matchup.

#29- STEPHEN CURRY (Active) He’s only a puppy, and showing us things we have never witnessed before. His handles and shot are arguably the best we have seen. His ability to shoot off the dribble and the pass is seemingly effortless. This makes him the leading man in the long distance shooting era.

#28- JASON KIDD (1994-2013) Kidd was the unselfish play maker of the day. His ability to pass and hit the boards made him a triple double threat every night (his 107 is 3rd all time).

#27- PAUL PIERCE (Active) Pierce thrives in pressure moments. He is in the closer’s club. Paul is a Boston Celtics legend whose playoff career will be the roots of his legacy. Defensively Pierce created a hurdle for LeBron James. His nickname “The Truth”, was given to him by Shaquille O’ Neal.

#26- GARY PAYTON (1990-2007) When I think of “the glove”, I picture him in his defensive crouch. His palms out, his head rocking side to side, and chewing his gum like the cockiest man alive. Gary Payton was also awesome at basketball.

#25- KEVIN MCHALE (1980-1993) His odd framed body combined with all of his pet moves made McHale a back to the basket wizard. Charles Barkley said about Kevin, “He was almost an impossible cover. I would just stand there with my arms raised up as high as I could get them. Then you just hoped he missed.”

#24- KEVIN DURANT (Active) He has the unique physical tools, the strong mental makeup, and the drive that makes him a lock for greatness. KD will begin his prime years of play this winter. Durant has already been the league MVP. He has finished in second place in the voting three times.

#23- DOMINIQUE WILKINS (1982-1999)  Dominique Wilkins was left off the NBA’s 50th Anniversary Team in 1996. Wilkins became the popular name missing from the top 50 list. Magic, Bird, and Jordan quickly made the point Nique deserved the same honor that they did. His 1988 playoff performance with 47 points remains a record for a game seven.

#22- CHRIS WEBBER (1993-2008) In my opinion, Webber was the top player in the NBA for the first half of the 2000 NBA season. Chris had good patience under the rim. He had amazing hands and caught everything. At the time C Webb was the best front court passer since Larry Bird.

#21- SCOTTIE PIPPEN (1987-2004) Pippen is the most disrespected star of my lifetime. He is perceived as a player that was carried to his success. The reality is, Scottie won six Championships while ranging between the 3rd and 12th best player on earth. He was a lock down defender and as well-rounded as they come.

Karl Malone has made more free throws (9,787) more than any player in NBA history.
Karl Malone has made more free throws (9,787) than any player in NBA history.

#20- PATRICK EWING (1985-2002)  He was the prize of the 1985 draft and did not disappoint. Patrick had all of the rugged traits with an iconic turn around shot from the baseline. Ewing was named “Player of the Month” 5 times.

#19- ALLEN IVERSON (1996-2010) Iverson destroyed defenses with his relentless play and blinding quickness. He was constantly on the floor sacrificing his body. Allen led the league in average minutes seven times. A guy that scores 30 points in the opening half of his first NBA Finals game, is obviously not scared.

#18- STEVE NASH (1996-2014) Steve had excellent balance and footwork. He was a degree of difficulty shot maker, and did it shooting elite percentages. His style could seem chaotic but Steve was in complete control. Teams were built around his unique abilities.

#17- DIRK NOWITZKI (Active) I’ll never forget his 2011 Finals performance. It was among the greatest efforts where one man carried a group. You could see his experiences paying off in the fourth quarter. Dirk slowly out matured the Miami Heat when it mattered the most.

#16- CLYDE DREXLER (1983-1998) I can see Drexler dribbling full speed ahead with his head down. Clyde was traded to the Rockets in 1995. Some teammates resented him because they missed Otis Thorpe. After dropping 41 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists in a playoff game down two games to one to Utah, ended questions over the trade. Kenny Smith said, “we remembered quickly he was special.”

#15- ISIAH THOMAS (1981-1994) Isiah played the game like he knew he was being watched. He was a crowd pleaser and was a difficult player to upstage. His 1,123 assists remain an Eastern Conference record that will be hard to touch.

#14- KEVIN GARNETT (Active) KG was an animated character. At his best, he could guard every player on the court. Garnett was so wound up in his early years, he would not let the ball go in his teams hoop even after the whistle had blown.

#13- DWYANE WADE (Active) The self security Wade showed in how he handled James and Bosh in Miami was vital to the bond and the winning. His hesitation dribble sets up his beautiful drives into the paint. The 6-foot-4 Wade has 717 blocks in only 781 games.

#12- CHARLES BARKLEY (1984-2000) There was nobody quite like Charles. For his size, his rebounding numbers are epic. He shot 58 percent from the floor over his first six seasons. Being the standout player on the original “Dream Team” is his coolest accomplishment.

#11- JOHN STOCKTON (1984-2003) Stockton was so good at making decisions he made me think and guess the game as a viewer. John scored 19, 711 points shooting 51.5 percent on field goals. On the side, he was busy crushing opponents physically in the pick-setting part of the game. Only three players have produced a 1,000 assist season. John accomplished that feat seven different times.

#10- DAVID ROBINSON (1989-2003) “The Admiral” was chiseled, mobile, and cat quick. The last quadruple-double in the NBA was February 17th, 1994. Robinson had 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, and 10 blocks against the Pistons. After the height of his individual glory, he tutored Tim Duncan which paid off with two Championships.

#9- KARL MALONE (1985-2004) One of the most impressive sights in modern basketball was the 6-foot-9 inch, 260 pound “Mailman” running the outside lane on the fast break. Backing his guy down in the paint, Karl would seal the player on his hip and it was over. Nobody was stronger and he was not going to be outworked. Malone made the ALL-NBA First Team 11 times.

#8- HAKEEM OLAJUWON (1984-2002) At his apex (1993-97), Hakeem had the most impact on offense and defense in harmony than anyone else I’ve seen in the NBA. He mowed down beasts of the game to win his two titles. “Dream” remains the only player with over 200 blocks and 200 steals in the same season.

#7- LEBRON JAMES (Active) James is the finest combination of power and finesse the game has seen. He is as unselfish as an elite scorer can be. His defense is wildly versatile. LeBron’s on the level where being the best ever has to be his goal.

Michael would often trash talk opponents just to piss himself off.
Michael would often trash talk  opponents just to piss himself off.

#6- SHAQUILLE O’NEAL (1992-2011) Phil Jackson coaching Shaquille O’Neal in his prime created a monster. The motivated, refined version of Shaq was so dominant, it made us all think of Wilt. O’Neal was the most automatic bucket in the NBA. He led the league in field goal percentage 10 times.

#5- TIM DUNCAN (Active) Tim is arguably the best player during his time in pro basketball. Duncan is a five time NBA Champion whose teams have won 50 or more games in 16 straight years. He’s everyone’s favorite model of poise and consistency.

#4- LARRY BIRD (1979-1992) Bird had an intimidating swagger about himself. He seemed to be playing cat and mouse with his opponents. He made an art form out of crafty play. Larry was the leader of arguably the greatest team of all time, the 1986 Boston Celtics (40-1 at home).

#3- KOBE BRYANT (Active) I believe Bryant is the greatest, fundamentally sound offensive player in the history of the game. His footwork and tough shot making ability are incomparable. Kobe once out scored the Dallas Mavericks 62-61 through three quarters. Dallas had played three more minutes than him.

#2- MAGIC JOHNSON (1979-1996) Magic smiled while he humiliated people. He always seemed to have his four offensive teammates on a string. Johnson had an incredible feel for what his team needed. He played in 9 NBA Finals. If you needed a 50 foot shot to win the game, Magic would give you a solid chance. He has the most fitting nickname in sports.

#1- MICHAEL JORDAN (1984-2003) Jordan is the best team sports athlete I’ve ever seen. He often owned the game and seemed to take what he wanted on the floor. He was asked to live up to “Jordan standards” every night. It’s amazing how often he would match or exceed those expectations. Michael scored 40 or more points in a game 37 times…in 1987 alone.

 

Jay C. Brandriet 7/7/15

THE EASY TRUTH TO SEE IN LEBRON JAMES VERSUS MICHAEL JORDAN

LeBron James has just carried the Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2015 NBA Finals. This will be his fifth straight trip to the championship round and his chance to win his third title in six chances. As James gains even more prominence in the NBA, the comparisons to Michael Jordan become increasingly regular. It’s a fun and easy temptation to compare NBA players and their levels of ability. Who is the better basketball player and by how much?

When players hit a certain level, we arguing over inches.
When players hit a certain level,
we argue over inches.

JORDAN IN CONTEXT: For those who did not see the majority of Jordan’s career, it’s important that I relay a message. Michael Jordan was not hype, cool shoes, and a marketable logo. He is not a product of people thinking things were always better yesterday. Jordan is the greatest performer in any team sport I have ever seen. His will and skill consumed everything about the game. MJ was so elite you could see his tangible efforts to motivate himself at times. He would often talk trash to an opponent to seemingly just piss himself off. He would hyper-focus and then take what he wanted. The Miami Heat retired Michael’s number out of respect for him punishing them on the floor so badly. Mike was that good.

 

JAMES IN CONTEXT: With zero rings in 2008, I believed LeBron James was already an NBA legend. No player has ever brought together the traits of power and finesse like LeBron. He is as unselfish as an all time scorer can be. His one scoring title was probably accidental on his part. LeBron is an icon of versatile play and leadership. Late in his prime I’m appreciating how special he is on the defensive end. “King James” has a bionic quality about him and a basketball IQ for the ages. James is on the level where his only professional goal, when he wakes up each morning, should be the journey to becoming the best player ever.

 

LET’S NOT COUNT THEIR RESUMES: We know how MJ has stepped on the throat of June and the NBA Finals. LeBron is a record-breaking, box score stuffing, winner himself. The biggest key is we have to respect that LeBron is far from done with his playing career. Let’s make their accomplishments the focus years from now. If we put the two players in a gym, in their primes, they would match up on a relatively even scale.

 

WHO IS BETTER? Michael was better. The detailed bits of difference are obvious to me. Jordan’s best hit a higher ceiling that LeBron’s has at this point. Michael’s game and its results were closer to perfect night to night. I’m keeping things in proper perspective. I’ts close my friends. LeBron’s game and body from outer space make it a discussion. In some ways “King” is getting better. People over-complicate it having to be so firm one way or the other. Jordan is the best I’ve ever seen, with that said LeBron deserves to be in the conversation. In 2015 James remains the top player in the world. He is likely to dominate for several more seasons.

 

KEY NOTES: I’ve watched players like Magic, Bird, Kobe, Duncan, Shaq, and the best version of Hakeem Olajuwon. I could be using their names in this article instead of James, but LeBron is the one in the Finals again. It’s still his time on the stage of greatness. He’s so awesome I must compare him to the best player I’ve seen.

 

Jay C. Brandriet

5/28/15

 

 

 

 

BILL SIMMONS GOT IT RIGHT TALKING JORDAN / PIPPEN

Michael pushed Scottie to the limit and the result became a dynasty.
Michael pushed Scottie to the limit and the result became a dynasty.

I’ve always thought Scottie Pippen has been disrespected by fans. It’s also been very over looked that he and Michael Jordan were an amazing duo. In a June 11th article on Espn.com Bill Simmons nailed the harmony the two players shared. In referring to a streak in which Jordan had not lost three straight games between December 1990 through the 1998 season, Simmons writes:

Re watching Finals games Jared Adams would say, "there were several plays where you can confuse Scottie and MJ."
Re watching Finals games Jared Adams would say, “there were several plays where it was difficult to tell MJ and Scottie apart.”

“Jordan’s genius during that run , at least for me, was in how beautifully he meshed with Scottie Pippen. You watched them together, running around in tandem and it was almost like Jordan spawned his own clone. Like Dr. Evil and Mini-Me. Only in this case , Pippen was two inches taller. Pippen moved like Michael, saw the court like Michael, jumped passing lanes like Michael and blended with Michael’s game like a non identical twin. It was crazy. I will never forget watching it for the rest of my life. Bird and Magic were geniuses, too, but shit, they never figured out how to replicate themselves.”

Bravo Bill Simmons.
Jay C. Brandriet

 

7/4/14